Friday, November 7, 2014

Abide. Know. Live.

I've come to the conclusion that I will probably never be one of those bloggers... You know, the ones with regularly scheduled posts filled with fun crafts, inspiring devotionals, and perfect snapshots.  I confess, that's not likely for me.

When I first started this blog years ago, I thought I had something to offer the world. I would inspire women to love God and love their husbands with my bloggy words. But the older I get, the more I grow in the Lord, the more I realize I have nothing.

And that's okay with me.

I am finding, seeing, truly coming into the realization that words are just words without the power of the Spirit behind them.  Even good words, lofty theological statements, encouraging advice, wonderful poetry... it's all for nothing if God's power, His immense love, isn't speaking them through me.

So I have come to a point where I see that I have nothing to write or say unless God gives me the words.  I have witnessed God speak a thousand sentences through one word. Yet I have often spoken a thousand sentences without a single word from Him. He does not need me to be crafty and witty and convincing. He does not require me to be a wordsmith.  His power goes beyond my ability to write well... or even write at all.

Sometimes I feel tempted to go through my blog and delete posts that, I feel, were inspired by legalism, not the Lord. Mine has been a journey where the Lord frees me over and over again from all sorts and flavors of legalism. I love it yet I hate it.

The voice of the Lord cries out to me, "Know Me!" and, in my past, I have often turned to the things that look like God rather than God Himself.  I am reminded of "The Love Chapter," 1 Corinthians 13:

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."

Speaking in tongues. Prophecy. Spiritual knowledge and understanding. Faith. All things pertaining to the Christian life, but still... nothing, absolutely nothing, without Love.

And what is this love? This love that is patient, kind? This love that does not envy or boast and is not prideful?  This love that honors? This love that is not selfish and self-seeking?  This love that is not easily angered, but is long-suffering and forgiving?  This love that keeps no record of wrongs?  What is this love that takes absolutely no delight in anything even slightly evil, and always rejoices in truth?  What is this love that protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres continually without fail?

It is not a thing. It is not an emotion. It is a Person.

Love is a relational Being.

Love is Christ.

This love certainly isn't that which we humans call love.  Our human love isn't consistently any of those things.  Our human love is always self-centered, even when we believe it not to be, because it is always seeking to love from our own power, for our own good, for our own purpose. Our fleshly love deceives even ourselves. That thing we call love, it always boils down to one thing. Me.

Just as legalism always boils down to one thing. Me.

Who I am. What I do. What I think you should do. How I look. How I think you should look. What I think the bible says on any given subject. My theology.

That's where Jesus invades, in that place of me and my and I, and breaks it all down.

There Christ is, on the mountain with his disciples (Matt. 7), teaching those around him, and he says something that we often misinterpret.

Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit. 
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’

Christ is the vine, we are the branches. He is the tree of life, we are the limbs that stretch forth from it. He is the good tree.  Branches don't really do anything in and of themselves.  The very nature of a branch is to grow and produce fruit, but not apart from the life of the tree.  The point is, the branches are connected to the tree.  They are in direct relationship with the tree. Cut off a branch and the life will quickly drain from it. It cannot sprout leaves apart from it's source of life, just as we cannot produce anything apart from our Source of Life— Christ.

It's about relationship.  Yet, in the past, I often read that and thought, "I must go forth and do good works!"

Jesus makes actually makes the opposite point in the second paragraph.  If we look at this from our mindset of "doing", it can seem like a contradiction.  There will be many who come to Christ on that day and say, "I did Your will! I did many good things for you, God! Look at my Christian works, Lord!"

How many times have I tried to stamp God's name on my works? My striving.  My good deeds.

But Christ says, No. Those weren't my works.  That was not fruit produced from the will of My Father. Who are you? You don't have a relationship with me! I don't know you!

How many times has God had to pluck off my taped-on fruit.  No Mandy. This not real. This is not life. This is not what I'm calling you to do.  Come to Me. Come follow Me. Come know Me.

When Jesus called to each of the men who would become His disciples, He wasn't just calling them to trail behind him and copy Him. He was calling them into an intimate relationship with Him.  Come get to know Me.  He was inviting them into His life.

So often I read Jesus's words, "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven," and thought His will was made up of my good, Christian deeds.

But now, I believe that His Will is found in John 15 (AMP)

Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. 
If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken-off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned. 
If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. 
When you bear (produce) much fruit, My Father is honored and glorified, and you show and prove yourselves to be true followers of Mine.
I believe that all of Scripture, even the Old Testament, points us to a relationship with Christ, not the following of a law.  Even the law was meant to point it's followers to a relationship with God.

It seems that Jesus is saying to those people who did all the good Christian works in His name, "You don't abide in me. I don't know You. You are not part of Me. You are not vitally united to Me."

The Will of the Father is that we would abide in Christ, and by our abiding—by our life being swallowed up in His—fruit would be produced for the glory and honor of God.

I think I shared this before, but it's worth sharing again. My friend Lauren has told me, on more than one occasion, that I am just a hose.  We are just hoses for Christ. A hose is simply a conduit for running water. It cannot produce water in and of itself. It must be connected to the water source for it to be of any real purpose.

Likewise, we cannot produce anything without being connected to our Source.  That goes far beyond checking the box of "going to church" and participating in fellowship gatherings.  It means, moment by moment, second by second, being connected to the Lord and living from His strength.

There's always a temptation to live from our own strength.  There's a battle, our flesh wars against us to use it's own power, rather than live empty and open and needy.  But God doesn't work through our own "can do".  We see, in the bible, that He used men and women who were small.  The unlikely.  The runt of the litter. The man who stuttered. The needy women.

And the people who thought they were powerful and mighty?  He humbled them. Their pride often led to their own demise.  Their fullness of self was their own poison.

So it brings me back to the point of having nothing to offer.  And being okay with that.  Because where I am weak, God is strong.  The reality is we are all weak.  But it is only where we acknowledge our weakness and lay it down before God— no excuses, no more, "I think I can,"—that God swoops in with His power and strength for His glory.

Monday, October 6, 2014

To Live for You

"We labor under the false assumption that if we live perfectly everybody will accept us, while there was One who lived His life perfectly, and everybody rejected Him."
              -Neil Anderson, Who I am in Christ

 It's true. I do live under that false assumption. Even though I know that my Savior was rejected and abandoned by the very people He came to save, even though, deep down, I know that I can't please everyone, even though I realize the bible says I will suffer for doing right........

I really want to believe that I can make everyone happy with me.

But when Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, He's not saying we should be people pleasers. He calls me to look to Him, to rest in Him, to take my identity from Him.

Help us Lord, to live for You alone.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Enjoy the Dance

I often forget the Lord is my strength.  I'm too busy trying to be strong.  I'm scoping out the path, trying to figure out how I'm going to climb those mountains, move those boulders.

Sometimes I watch my little daughters dancing, princess gowns on backward, a scarf tied around a little head as flowing long hair, feet clapping against the flooring.  Their moves are anything but graceful, but they don't care.

They are enjoying the dance. 

They don't care how they look. They don't care if anyone is watching.

There once was a girl who loved to leap and dance and twirl.  She loved wrapping herself in blankets as make-do dresses.  She loved to sing at the top of her lungs songs she made up.

And then she grew up. She stopped dancing.

And then she had kids.  She had four little girls who reminded her that God must delight in watching His daughters dance and twirl, leap and spin, sing and rejoice.... like no one else is watching.

Singing and dancing to the one who is my strength, like a deer bounding here and there, leaping from one ledge to another. My focus on my Savior, rather than myself.

And I realize that the reason I so often repeat, "I can't" to myself (about any given thing) is because I'm busy looking at myself, but when I'm looking at my Father, nothing seems impossible. A giant leap is but a small step in His direction.

I've come to use that phrase often. Enjoy the dance. This is our dance, God and me, where the Lord has me right now. Often I'm panicking or fighting Him or trying to run away. I'm worried what people think or what it looks like... and all the time I'm resisting the One who is leading me.

Stop. Mandy, enjoy the dance.

This morning, as I stood in front of the bathroom sink, looking at myself in the mirror, heart heavy, I felt like He was saying, "Why are you looking around You for approval and love?"

The Lord is my strength.
He's my strength to stay free.
To stay focused.
To dance this crazy, awesome dance.

I may know He's my strength in the big impossibilities, but often I forget that really, my life is full of impossibilities without Him. Without Him, I'm left to look for love, approval, value, and meaning around me. It's impossible for me to enjoy right here, right now, without His strength, without His love. Without Him, my high places depend on how I'm feeling on any given day and whether it's a "good day" by my own standard.

I want to be in this dance. I want to press into my Savior. Where you go I go, Lord. I want to be in step with His Holy Spirit. I want to be so focused on Him, that it doesn't even occur to me to look anywhere else.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Beautiful Things

It's true. I've been thinking how God creates beautiful things out of dirt and filth. Some may look at a tray of watercolors and see just a tray of watercolors, but in my mind's eye I see all the possibilities of things I can create with those hues. I love that God's vision is so extensive. We see so little, we dream so small. He creates and recreates. He takes messes and fashions them into masterpieces. He is the ultimate Artist.

Are there areas in your life where you have seen Him make beautiful things out of dust?  Are there areas where you are asking for His transformation?

Most regular readers know that my marriage was a train wreck until God transformed it... almost overnight... and brought my husband and I into the knowledge of His saving grace at the same time.  I have seen God do all sorts of healing works in many different areas— with my children, with my friends, with my husband's health.

I'm currently praying for complete healing. Will you join me? I feel like my body is falling apart. Twelve years of pregnancy, nursing, and such have exhausted my body because I did not take proper care of it. These last few years I've been really working to restore my health, but there are some things I feel are "too far gone" and need the healing, miraculous touch of Jesus.  Will you pray for me?

While I am feeling better than when I first realized I had adrenal fatigue, I am still struggling through it. I am often tempted to take the easy route when it comes to food because I don't have a lot of energy (plus I have a wicked sweet tooth).  My teeth are suffering as they have become frail and nutrient deprived since, even though I brush and rinse and do coconut oil rinses, I neglected to take vitamins and minerals seriously.  My body had a hard time absorbing them due to my diet (grains/legumes hinder absorption) and my pregnancies and nursing depleted what I was able to absorb.

My organs are suffering as well. They literally ache.

I have abused my body. It is my fault, mostly because I was ignorant so many of those years, not fully understanding that what I ate really mattered.  But I believe God heals even the wounds we have made ourselves.

It's hard for me to write this because... well, I feel pretty stupid. But, I know I'm not the only one going through this. Will you join in praying for me?  Can I pray for you as well?

Thank you!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Retrospect, Lessons in Trust

Yesterday our sweet Evangeline Rose turned 4. As I flipped through her baby pictures, my mind drifted back to the days when I was pregnant with her.

After four miscarriages in less than a year, I enter into my pregnancy with her with a hesitant heart. I wanted to rejoice, but I was afraid that I would miscarry her too. I found out I was pregnant with her on New Years Eve, the same day I had found out I was pregnant with her brother, Keagan, three years previous. I had no idea that the year 2010 would be one full of trial and beauty.

One Spring morning, a Sunday as I recall, I woke up not feeling so great.  Merikalyn was sitting at the table playing, or maybe eating... possibly both.. and all the sudden half of her face started twitching.  She looked at me with fear in her eyes.  Her eye twitched, her mouth moved, and she was not able to control it. That night we would find out that our oldest child had a brain mass, and several days later, she would undergo surgery to remove it.

It was only a week or two later that we went in for an ultrasound to see our little baby and find out the gender. After the ultrasound, I received a call from my midwife.  I knew it was difficult for her to share the news since we had just gone through so much with our oldest daughter.

"The ultrasound revealed that your baby does not have all four chambers."  Later we would find out that Evangeline also had a mass on her brain.  My midwife told me to schedule an appointment to see a specialist, "But," she said, "More importantly. Don't start freaking out.  Pray. Talk to God about it."

The specialist began telling us about Trisomy 18, which all evidence pointed to on the first ultrasound.  He spoke briefly of labor and delivery options, life expectancy, and such and then began the ultrasound.

And our baby was whole. Complete. Perfect.

I can't even describe the relief I felt.  We were still nursing Merikalyn back to health.  I was still feeling the pain and loss of four miscarriages. I was so grateful, so grateful.

I think that season of my life was a clear message that control is just an illusion.  We think we have control of our lives, that we can have children when we want to have children, that we can keep our little ones healthy and safe, that we can order our days the way we want.... but the reality is that our area of control is very small. Very. Small.

My Father continues to open my eyes to that reality, not just in the difficult trials, but the good times as well. The building of our home was yet another revealing that God brings all things together. He accomplishes what I am unable to accomplish.

Truly, my children teach me that lesson over and over.  I need Jesus Christ. I need Him more than I can ever imagine, and you need Him more than you can comprehend.

There's nothing like parenting to really send that message home. Again and again.  I love each one of my children deeply. I want to keep them safe physically, mentally, and spiritually, and while I am responsible for them and have a big role to play in protecting them, ultimately, they are in Father's hand, and I have to trust Him with their lives.  I think it's sometimes easier for me to trust God in the big, dramatic events of my life when things are very obviously out of my control, I know I have no where else to go but the Father. The problem is that in the every day mundane, I often fool myself. I think I have it under control. I believe I can control my life better if I find the right method, the perfect curriculum, the most efficient routine.  At various times in my life, I have believed things would be perfect if we just had more money, if my husband had a different job, if we lived in a different house, if they had more land to play on,  I have placed my trust in life's goods rather than my God, in my situation rather than my Savior.

I love this quote from Jerry Bridges:

 “Trust is not a passive state of mind. It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold on the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelms us.”
Trusting God is not just checking out. It's not a passive statement of, "Oh, well, the Lord's got it."  It's an active belief, and often it takes real work to truly trust and believe that God loves me, is for me, and is in ultimate control. (He isn't wringing His hands, wondering how He's going to work out this situation or that.) It takes work to trust that He is good, even when the circumstance doesn't seem good, or the outcome isn't what you wanted.  It takes effort to believe and trust because often there seems to be evidence that says not to (based on our limited view).

I realize that my default is to either choose to be oblivious (just check out) or to trust in myself (which often looks like worrying and the emotions that come with trying to problem solve in my own strength).

The weaving of our lives is such a strange thing.  Evangeline would not be here had I not miscarried. One day I will meet those babies in heaven, but if I had not lost the first, I would have had a different baby, not my Evie baby. And while I would have loved that baby, I am grateful for Evangeline, and look forward to meeting my other babies.  It's all... weird, and confusing, and difficult.  I'm not saying it's easy to explain or all makes sense.  But thankfully, I don't have to make it make sense.

And now I'm done rambling. :)

Thank You, Lord, for Evangeline Rose's life. Thank You for the precious gift we have in each of our children.  I'm so grateful You watch over them and love them more than I can imagine.  I want to trust You with their lives.  I want You to use them in mighty ways for Your kingdom, and that often requires risk and the sacrifice of the appearance of safety, but Lord, we know that You are for us. You love us. You will not forsake us.  I pray my children would firmly believe that as well.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Throwing out pride and building Mothers up.

Where my mind has been recently is that our pride often has us putting up a false front as mothers.  It's easy to do that these days where so many of our interactions are on social media, and we can pretend we aren't struggling, pretend we have it all together, pretend our homes are mess free and our children are perfect.

Our pride can keep us from coming alongside other mothers to encourage.  Instead we judge.  We tear down. We pick apart their homes, their parenting, their marriages, and their methods.

And it's no wonder mothers are falling apart.  I believe the Lord longs to use us to encourage each other. He wants to speak words of Life to each one of us, not only for us to receive but for us to lavish others with too.

A friend and I were hanging out in my living room several weeks back, babies wiggling in our laps, when she said, "I feel like I've been fooled."  See, all these women gave her a glimpse of the beautiful side of motherhood. But no one said there would be hard days. No one told her it would be a struggle. No one told her that some days she wouldn't exactly like her children. No one said that some days she'd feel like walking out of her life.

I think there's several reasons for that.  First of all, we're all trying to give each other the best impressions rather than committing to just be real.  Secondly, we're good at hiding the reality because we aren't living in community with others.  We spend just enough time with people to give them a glimpse of the highlight reel.  We hide the crazy just long enough. Once our guests are gone, we can let it all hang out again.

My friend's comment reminded me of how important it is to not let my pride get in the way of being who I am, where I am. My pride wants to scurry around and tidy up my home before people stop in. My pride gets embarrassed by the mess. But I know there is something soothing to a fellow mom who can enter my abode and see that a dose of chaos lives here too with princess costumes strewn about, the stove top looking like a lasagna bomb went off, and crayons tossed around like confetti.

I don't have to be embarrassed when my toddler has a melt-down or my nine year old says something absolutely horrifying.  Likewise, I don't have to look down my nose with judgment when someone else's baby pitches a fit or their big kid makes a big blooper. We can love people for who they are and where they are.

I don't want my pride to get in the way of loving others.  I want my friends and their families to know I am for them, even if we don't look the same, parent the same, homeschool the same, worship the same, or keep house the same.  I want them to know they are adored even when they make huge mistakes, say hurtful things, or fall apart, just as I want others to love and forgive me even when I screw up big time.

I want to be an encourager. I want to build other mothers up.  I want to be an encouragement to their children. I want them to see my home as a loving place, and my family as expressers of grace.  I want to lavish people with the love and grace I receive from God.

As C.S. Lewis said, "Pride is a spiritual cancer; it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense."  I've seen pride tear apart strong friendships, crumble marriages, estrange children. Pride tears down. It decays everything it touches. It's not surprising that Satan often appeals to our pride because He knows how deadly it is to relationships, especially our relationship with Christ.

I just want to encourage you to reach out to the mothers in your life—maybe even your own mother— and offer genuine words (and actions) of encouragement. Write your mama a letter thanking her for all her hard work during your childhood. Offer to babysit a friend's children so she can have lunch with friends, grocery shop by herself, or finally get that hair cut she's been wanting. Invite over a couple moms you know and have some coffee while the kids run crazy together.  You will not only encourage, but you will be encouraged (and you'll probably have some good laughs too)!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hello House!

I apologizing for being MIA.  Now that our internet is up and running, I can finally start sharing more!

We moved in shortly after my last house post.  The upstairs is still mostly unfinished as we have focused on completing the first floor where we spend most of our time.  As I type, my husband and our friend/neighbor Terry are grouting the bathroom tile so that my husband can finally start taking a shower rather than being forced to take baths every day. (I, on the other hand, love a good bath!)

I have really enjoyed "crafting" my home, and as of this point, we have already managed to rearrange the furniture three times (at least)!

Everything is subject to change as we get things completed.  In fact, since I took the photo above, things have changed again since some friends of ours gave us a children's craft table, so the coffee table is now back by the couch where it belongs.

Before that it looked like this:

I love the open feel of it which allows us to be pretty flexible with furniture placement.

And I've been hanging up pictures and decor, which is always fun.

I love these pieces, the top piece is a pen and watercolor painting I made, and the hoop art and framed floral piece come from an incredibly talented fabric designer friend of mine, Ellie over at Taffy and Twine.  Her work is so amazing, and I can't wait to start working on the children's rooms because I definitely want to use her designs!

My husband and our good friend Mike put together this truly gorgeous table using two vintage sewing table bases and some wood milled from trees in the area.  It's probably one of my favorite pieces in the house.

I still can't believe this is our home. When I look the first story, I am reminded that this was supposed to be it.  Our house was just supposed to be this downstairs area with a little crawl in sleeping loft for the kids.  I am amazed by all that God provided for us, extending passed everything we hoped and dreamed for.  (In fact, today, we were given a couch! We had been wanting one for the upstairs reading area! And, my husband received free tile that was leftover from job, which allowed us to tile our shower.)

I feel like God has been speaking to me about His plan and purpose for our home.  I want people to be able to enter these doors and feel peace and rest.  I want weary mamas to be able to come here, relax on my couch with a cup of coffee, and not have to worry about if their children break something or draw on the walls.  I want it to be a place people can come and get go of their burdens and feel the love of the Lord.  A lot of that vision stems from the vision the Lord recently gave my husband and I as we sat down to talk about raising and homeschooling our children.  Hopefully I'll get a chance to write about that soon!

Thanks for checking out our home!  I'm glad to be back to blogging. If you have a blog, please leave a comment with your blog link so I can get to know you!

Monday, May 19, 2014

It's time for a house update.

(Warning, this post is photo-heavy!)

We have an official move-in date, folks!  The house won't be finished, but it will be done enough for us to move in by the end of the month (May 30th-31st).  We're at such an exciting point, because each bit makes it look more and more like home.  The journey to and in building this home has been... unbelievable.  The many ways God has provided, the way people have come to our assistance...

My husband and I have always wanted to build our own place, but we thought it impossible for several reasons. First of all, we both felt like a mortgage was not in the cards for us. Been there, done that, and foreclosed. We didn't want to go there again. When a mortgage is off the table, renting seems like the only option, because, um, we didn't (and still don't) have thousands upon thousands of dollars to throw down on a house. I am still having a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea of living in a house without rent or mortgage! (If only we didn't have to pay taxes, eh?)

It's been so amazing to watch God work.  A couple weeks ago, the money ran out. I mean, it was out, and at that moment, God came through (as He always does). He always gives us just enough (money, material, help... whatever it may be) to get through to the next step, usually right when we need it.  We also needed an oven, and a friend texted me that day saying they had a present for us- their stove/oven (as well as their fridge) from a house they are no longer living in.  I burst into tears!

When we started building this home, neither of us were sure how long it would take.  Our savings had been depleted. Now here we are and it's so close to being done.

What has really just... I can't even, don't even have the words for... I'm just blown away.... by the help of my brothers and sisters in Christ.  There have been several men who have showed up on a weekly basis (often several times a week!) to help out.  I can't tell you what that does for my heart... and my husband's.  I know these guys have families and hobbies and heck, even a bit of lazying around they'd like to do, but I am so, so grateful that they choose to come pitch in. Most of the work has been exhausting, back-breaking stuff.  Having them show up time after time with the attitude of, "Hey, how can I be of use?" makes me feel so incredibly loved. These men have become my brothers.

God has blessed me with an amazing natural family, but I had always longed for a large family. When I was little, I wished for many brothers and sisters.  Here I am, a couple months away from my thirtieth birthday, realizing that God has abundantly answered that prayer.

We've had folks that didn't even know us come pitch in.  Great times of fellowship have flowed from this project.  We've made friends out of strangers who, by the grace and love of God, felt moved to help us.

I love how God takes a house and turns it into so much more. Community. Family. Faith. Prayer. Surrender. It would take an eternity to tell about all the things I've learned and experienced through building our home (and it's not even over yet).

But, I suppose it's time for me to stop talking (er... writing) and post pictures, right?  The last time I posted it was March, so I have about two month's worth of photos to share.

Back to God's provision- I am often humbled by how He not only provides for our needs (a roof over our head) but our wants too.  Brandon and I had been eyeing this kitchen island we wanted at World Market but we knew it was out of our budget.  One day I come to the house to find this box!  A friend found out we wanted it and purchased it for us!  I was really blown away. I absolutely love that so many things in our home were gifts from friends or things we bought from friends.

Many meals have been eaten upon this stoop. 

Septic digging

As I said. Many, many meals.

The girls have looooved tractor rides with Daddy!

Most of our walls downstairs are ship lap (not sure if I spelled that right), but my husband also decided to score sheets of plywood so they looked like planks for some of the rooms (like the washroom). Like their saw set up? Ha!

Yesterday priming and painting the downstairs main room happened. Terry was coated in white paint. I am sure his neck is killing him from spraying the ceiling! 
The guys stayed up until midnight getting the final coat on the main room walls. It's milk white, and it looks FANTASTIC.  Even at night it feels so fresh and bright! (All those LED can lights help too.)

You can follow our house journey on Instagram under the tag #mchouseyhouse!

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Story of Shiloh Mae

It's been a good bit since I've posted an entry! Much has happened since my last blogging bit, but the biggest (yet smallest) thing to report is that our sixth living child, sweet Shiloh Mae Turner McGee, made her way into the world January 21st, 2014 at 12:27am!

As I sit down to write (It is currently Wednesday as I begin this), it seems a little unreal that 36 hours ago I was less than a half hour away from birthing this tiny little baby, but before I get ahead of myself, let me start at the beginning.  I'm not really a brief person, so... this will definitely not be the "nutshell version" of our birth story!

While the Lord has definitely been in each and every pregnancy and birth, Shiloh's pregnancy was one that I knew the God was very, very active in.  In the beginning, when He gave me this baby's name (before we knew the gender), I felt like He was telling me that her pregnancy and birth would be a huge spiritual marker in my life, much like the stones that the Israelites gathered and stacked together as a monument in the fourth chapter of Joshua:

 Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.’” So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.” [...] 
  Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month and camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho. Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the Lord your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

 I knew that the Lord was taking me into a deeper place of dependence and trust in Him. Specifically, in this season (not just this pregnancy), the focus has been on relying on Him in the moment—not looking ahead or behind, but being present, right here and right now, with the Lord. 

I think most of us like to walk into each and every situation completely prepared, right? We like to feel like we know what we are headed into, what we're supposed to be doing, what's going to happen, and how it's going to play out.

Sometimes the Lord gives us provision beforehand.  For example, with the home we are building, there have been times when the Lord has given us material in advance, but, really, most of the time, what we have needed (material, finances, help) has shown up just as we needed it, just when we were at the end of what we had.

So has it been in most areas of my life this season— there has been little "stored up".  What the Lord has offered has been "manna for the moment".

This was one of the roughest pregnancies for me.  I cannot pinpoint exactly why since I was far more sick in my first three pregnancies than this one.  Yes, my body hurt more than normal (likely because of the cold weather), but I don't think that was it either.  Something in me was just weary.

The year of 2013 was incredibly busy, and our time together as a family, specifically my time with my husband, was stretched thin since we have been in the midst of building our home.  This means that my husband works full time, and then uses his "spare time" to work on the home.  Every day of good weather is a treasure when you are framing and such, and there has been a rush to get the house dried in so that the wood doesn't mildew and warp. (Praise the Lord, we now have a roof and over half the house is dried in with foam board.)

I really struggled with my emotions this pregnancy, especially in the last month, and became really worn from this go-go-go season (which has lasted so long)!  Often I felt like some hormonal creature had taken over my body.  Part of me was very rational, looking over at this crazy hormonal freak wishing she would get her stuff together!  It's a very tough place to be, very scary, very exhausting.  It's a bit strange to be hormonal and know you are being hormonal and wish you weren't being so hormonal but lacking the power to change it.

This season of life has driven me to place of utter dependence upon the Lord.  We have been through a lot as a family, but this is the first time in a long time that I have really seen how incredibly limited my control is.  Even in chaotic situations when circumstances were out of my control, I at least felt like I could control myself. Having no control over my thoughts, hormones, and emotions as well as no control over my life circumstances was really eye opening.

Control is just an illusion.  

When control, and all illusion of it, was ripped from my hands, what I realized is that all I ever have, and all I really need, is Jesus.  All I have in the moment is God. My only solace in the moment is Him.  My only grace for now is Him. My only source of life is Him. My only escape is Him. My only rest is Him. My only strength is Him. My only wisdom is Him. My only trust, my everything.... is this divine Life of Christ that dwells in Me. He is the power and strength and life that flows within and out of me. He's all I really have.

And He is enough.

I have spent many, many, many nights (especially the last few weeks of Shiloh's pregnancy) wide awake, crying out to the Lord, reaching out to Him, allowing myself to feel the comfort of His lap and arms, releasing myself to trust in Him, reminding myself of His abundant love and grace, thirsty for His presence, relying completely on His provision for my own sanity, begging Him to give me a clear mind and calm my hormones, to lead me in truth moment by moment...

I have never been more aware of my weakness.  I am so, so weak. Frail. Fragile.

And so, as the weeks rolled on, Shiloh's due date passed, my 42nd week of pregnancy neared, and time seemed to be running out (and there were no signs of labor) I felt a little frantic. We had just managed to (finally) get her to stay head down after multiple (successful) attempts at flipping her. (She would always manage to flip back to breech or hang out transverse shortly after.)  She was not following any of the rules.  At 41 weeks, she had yet to even engage in the pelvis. I had gone "overdue" (by 10 days) with another child, but nothing like this.  I felt like I was going to be pregnant forever.

Each day would come, and I would think, "Maybe today!" and then into the night I would beg God for contractions, and still the days passed. Nothing. I just felt tired and crummy.

At 41 weeks my husband and my midwife, together, flipped the baby head down.  It was incredibly painful. It took both of them to do it. She was very resistant (whereas previously, she had been fairly compliant, even though later she had flipped back around). Then we bound my belly with a rebozo wrap to limit her movements (so she would not be able to spin around again).  While this whole ordeal was exhausting and uncomfortable, it worked, and she remained head down for the remainder of the pregnancy.  Our goal now was to get her to engage!

Clearly my husband was having a lot of fun...

A few days later I had an ultrasound to make sure everything was okay.  We needed to know if there was a reason why she wasn't engaging. Had all her gymnastics in the womb caused her to get tangled in the cord?

Nanci, my friend and midwife, felt the baby was pretty small.  Maybe my due date was off?  We needed to know how things appeared so we could decide what to do next.  I always feel a little anxiety over ultrasounds since we have received bad news several times through ultrasounds. I kept having to lay everything at the Lord's feet, trusting Him with Shiloh, this pregnancy, and whatever turn things might take.

I was very excited to learn that everything was great. Shiloh was still head down, even though she had yet to engage.  There were no cord issues, she looked healthy, fluid levels were awesome, everything was fabulous.  But my due date definitely was not off. The tech (whom I have used in the last three pregnancies and is absolutely wonderful) explained that the placenta was grade 3, which is normal for this late in pregnancy, but it definitely meant that we were on a time limit. Placentas don't last forever, y'all!

10 days past my due date. Shiloh was low, but still not engaged.

I had been doing some pumping with a manual breast pump as well as taking some herbs and using clary sage essential oil on my belly (and doing lots of walking) but we knew we needed to step it up. I went to the chiropractor to make sure everything was in line for the baby to move down properly.

 My midwife stripped my membranes Saturday. She said I was at about 2 centimeters and I was at about a 3-4 after stripping my membranes, which was good news to me since I had felt like my body was failing me and it had taken so much work (pumping and walking) to get contractions going (and they never stuck around). I started taking a different herb mixture every couple hours, and began walking more frequently (and as fast as my weary legs could carry me). Nanci (midwife) felt that things would really pick up if I had an electric double breast pump, so she called a friend of ours and asked if we could borrow hers. Brandon was working out at the land on the house, so Nanci brought me out there (she lives next door to the house we are building) and we walked around for a bit hoping to get contractions going.  (Walking definitely helped.)

Merikalyn and  Nanci walk together while Evangeline pulls Molly Jo in the wagon.

I was really hoping Sunday would be the day.  We spent the morning together as a family, did a little shopping for children's shoes, ate lunch at Red Robin (mmm, burgers), and then went out to the land so Brandon could get a bit more work done.  I walked, and walked, and walked... and did have some good contractions.  Our fellowship meeting was at Nanci's that night, and I wasn't sure if we should stay or if we should go home so I could rest up (since I was really hoping to go into labor that night).  We decided to play it by ear, so we ended up staying for the potluck meal and meeting, then left after the meeting was over rather than hanging out and chatting as we usually do.  I was tired, and Becky had brought the breast pump so I was eager to use it and get things going again.

Sunday night contractions got going, but would die out 30 minutes after pumping.  I was tired and realized it would be best for me to just to stop pumping and striving, so I went to bed and slept fitfully.  Time was really running out, and I felt pressed.  One wonderful thing about that night was that Brandon and I had a really great conversation before bed in which I shared my heart, what I was feeling, some of my anxieties, and I really felt like that was helpful for me spiritually and mentally.  I had felt a little disconnected from my sweet husband, and so I was relieved that we were able to connect and share our hearts. It brought me a lot of peace in that area. I believe it is so important to have that marital relationship in a connected, peaceful place before labor and birth.

Monday Brandon stayed home from work because we knew time was short, and we had to get labor rolling because Nanci wouldn't legally be able to be our midwife after 42 weeks.  Knowing the placenta was running out of time drove us forward as well.  Otherwise, we wouldn't have worried about a time limit, but since the tech saw the placenta was beginning to deteriorate, we knew we couldn't go much over 42 weeks without hurting the baby.  I began to have a lot of anxiety over the tick-tock in my brain and again had to continue laying that down before the Lord.  I really felt like He was calling me to trust Him. I hated that there wasn't any predictability. I felt out of control. I felt like a ship without an anchor.  The Lord reminded me that He is my anchor— not a method, not specific time line of events, not a check list of how labor goes.  A couple lines from one of my favorite songs repeated through my mind the last few weeks of pregnancy whenever I felt anxious:

"I will trust in You; You've never failed before." and "I will wait for You; You've never failed before."
(Sidewalk Prophets, Help Me Find It)

Trust and wait.  Those are such difficult things for me to do.

"Today is the day," I told myself. "I'm going into labor today."
Nanci suggested a special chiropractic adjustment or acupuncture. I knew we could only afford one, so I told the Lord He would have to make it clear which we were to do.  The chiropractor wasn't available until Tuesday (too late!) so I called the acupuncturist praying she'd be able to fit me in.  As God would have it, she had an appointment if I could get there in the next 40 minutes, or she could fit me in later in the afternoon.  Of course I took the first available.

I had acupuncture needles in my face, back, hands, ankles, and feet.
I had never experienced acupuncture before, but I am definitely a fan of natural, alternative medicine, and I had heard so many great things, so I went for it. [Becky Castano is a wonderful acupuncturist if you live in the Northwest Houston area!]  I left feeling very relaxed as a lot of the tension I was holding in my body was released, and all over I just felt "loose".

Brandon had taken the kids for pizza while I was at my session, so we stopped at Panera so I could get a sandwich and then headed to the park so I could get in some more walking while the kids played.  Nanci called us as we were walking and said they were "in the area" (yeah, I think she arranged that..) and wanted to know if they could come by.  We headed back home and met up with Terry, Nanci, and their youngest daughter Emily there.  Nanci and I slipped away to the bedroom while the fellas relaxed on the couch to chat.

We talked over the options, then called Brandon in to discuss with him.  We all agreed that she would strip my membranes again, and then, if I wasn't in labor by Tuesday morning, she would break my waters as a last ditch effort.  Tuesday officially marked the 42nd week.  I tried my best to stay in the moment and not think about Tuesday though.

Nanci noted that I was easily 5 centimeters dilated and she could stretch me a bit more, so I was encouraged by the progress.  I should point out that I went my whole pregnancy and labor with Molly Jo without one single check from Nanci.  I am not into intervention during pregnancy and labor, so making these choices was very difficult, yet necessary. The Lord definitely smashed to pieces some stakes I had put into the ground about things I would "never" do!  (He does that a lot, you know.)

Brandon and I went on walks around the property every hour for about 15 or so minutes, then we would come back, and I would take my herbs then use the breast pump while we watched a movie.  As you can imagine, it took a long time to finish the movie!

I started tracking my contractions, noting that while pumping (and shortly after) they would be 3-4 minutes apart but only 30 seconds long.  They would stretch to 10 minutes apart, but still 30 seconds long until I pumped again.

The kiddos to got ready for bed, and we let them watch a couple shows on Netflix before instructing them to head to bed for the night.  We were all pretty sure we'd have a baby by the time they woke up in the morning, so there was a surge of excitement in the air!

Around 9pm I noticed that the contractions were getting quite uncomfortable, and I was longing for the relief of hot water. I turned to my husband and said, "I don't know how people labor out of the water. I know I did it with the first two (they were hospital births) but I wouldn't ever want to do that again!"

I texted Nanci and asked her when it would be safe to get into the water without potentially stalling things. (Sometimes getting in the water too soon in labor can cause the contractions to stop.)  "For you," she replied, "I would say 8-9 cm. Are things happening now?"

I was having a lot of bloody show (and had been for a couple days) but I told her the contractions were still very short (still 30 seconds long). I definitely didn't want to walk during them, and I was highly uncomfortable during them, but since they were short, I figured I had a long way to go.

Nanci texted, "Sounds like things have changed a lot since 3pm when I saw you. Don't wait to long to call me!"

About an hour and a half later I texted her:

Reads: "Okay, so I hope you got some rest because I think it would be
 good for you to make your way here. This labor is so different, I'm not sure what to do or expect."

There was so much pressure on my bum with each contraction. I knew enough that often that's a sign that "the end is near", so I figured it would be better to have Nanci come over than to wait!  However, since my contractions were only 30 seconds long and still 8-10 minutes apart, I was just sure she would end up coming and having to hang out allllllll night long, missing out on a good night's sleep. (When your midwife is your friend, you worry more about her sleep than your laboring! Ha!) I was genuinely torn, but decided to stop stressing. I kept reminding myself, "This is her job! She is used to this! This is what she does!"

Minutes after I texted her to come over, my contractions moved to 3 minutes apart (although still 30 seconds long), and I told Brandon that we should start filling the birth pool in faith that I would be able to get into it soon.  Plus, I knew it would take a bit to fill since we would have to stop several times to allow the water heater to catch up. We had already inflated the birthing pool the night before, so it was ready to go!

Nanci arrived around 10:15pm or so and brought in all her things. She asked me if I wanted to be checked, and suddenly I felt unsure. What if she checked me and I was only at a 6? I would be really discouraged and still not able to relieve the pain in the birthing pool!  I voiced my concerns and she said, "When you texted me asking when you could get into the birthing pool I knew something had changed."  On that note, I decided it would be worth it.

Nanci checked and I was already at 8cm, which meant I could get into the birthing pool! I was elated! The water wasn't very high as it just barely covered my legs when I sat in it, but it was incredibly soothing to my bottom, providing some relief.

Before I had texted Nanci to come, I was thinking I still had a long way to go, but once I got into the water, I realized that, even though my contractions were not very long, I was likely not far from giving birth, and so I became concerned that the pool wouldn't fill in time! I desperately needed the water to get higher and provide some back labor relief!

My husband made the comment that maybe he should get the water pump out so that we could drain the water as it got cold and refresh it with hot water.  I told him there wouldn't be enough time for the water to cool off!  I'm not sure if he believed me at that point, though!

I spent a good bit of time talking to the Lord through the contractions— praying for Him to be gentle with me and thanking Him for giving me contractions (because, you know, they are a good thing when you need to have a baby!).  Between contractions I would read Isaiah 41:10, which I had taped to the wall near the birth pool along with a 3-D ultrasound photo of sweet Shiloh's face.

"Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."

This birth felt very odd. With Molly Jo's birth, I had known just what to do at every stage. I knew exactly how to breathe, what position to be in, and everything was very, very clear and peaceful and, yes, pain-free.  Her labor was incredibly easy.

But with Shiloh, I found that there wasn't a single position that was comfortable. Nothing, not even pressure points, relieved the back pain. The intensity and pain of the contractions pushed me to find the Lord in each moment.  I felt like He was telling me not to look ahead, not to question how I would have the strength or endurance for the next contractions, but to be present with Him here and now.  So in each contraction I begged Him for strength and grace. I looked toward Him and asked Him to get me through it. When they subsided, I praised Him for the shortness of the contraction, thanked Him for taking me through it, thanked Him for relief, and accepted the rest He had given.  Often in the intensity of the contraction I would hear Him say, "It is finished," and I received comfort that I was already seated in Heavenly places, and I felt like He was saying even my children, the ones who had yet to be born, were already seated in Heavenly places with Him. That probably sounds a bit crazy to some of you reading this, but it was so, so comforting to me. Yes, in earthly time I was still living out the limits and pains of life, but in His heavenly Kingdom, the work had already been accomplished.

My labor and birth playlist, which I had downloaded onto my iPhone from iTunes, played songs at the perfect time. Truly, my labor was a time of intense fellowship and worship with the Lord, and not just with the Lord, but with my husband and midwife as well.  I knew they were with me, joined in Spirit with me, praying for me, and praising the Lord with me.

[Note: I have made a YouTube Labor & Birth Playlist featuring the majority of the (Christian) songs I used. A couple of the specific artists I used were not available, so I picked the next best soothing artist for the song.]

I quickly hit transition. I hate transition. I hate the shaking that comes with transition, and I had really hoped to skip all that! (I did not experience transition with Molly Jo's labor. As I said, it was the most peaceful, pain-free labor I had ever had.)  I hate feeling like I have no control over my body. Lack of control has been the major theme of this whole pregnancy and labor, so it was not surprising! I felt the Lord calling me to focus on Him rather than the physical and emotional feelings I was experiencing.  At one point during labor, "I Need You More" sung by Kim Walker came on, perfectly expressing my heart.

I need You more, more than yesterday. I need You more, more than words can say! I need You more than ever before. I need you Lord! I need you more.

Really, it has never felt so good to be needy. I have always viewed neediness as such a bad thing, and as I recently explained to my husband, I have really tried, since the Lord healed our marriage back in 2006, to not be a needy wife or needy friend.  I do not want to be a "taker", but the Lord has been showing me that I have nothing to give to Him. In fact, in my relationship with Him, He is calling me to be a taker. A receiver. He is calling me to hold out open hands and allow His blessing, love, strength, grace, and joy to pour into my life through each circumstance and situation.

So in those moments of labor I accepted my position of being desperate and needy, and I wildly, boldly, unashamedly threw myself into His arms.

And it was good. So, so good.  Because He has never, ever failed me once.

He didn't take away the pain, but He was there in it.

I pushed for what seemed like forever. It probably wasn't long. My husband says it was about 15 minutes. I sobbed uncontrollably. I wasn't sure if I was crying because of the intense pressure and pain or because of the worship and fellowship with the Lord or because I knew it was almost over. But my body shook as tears poured out. For a few seconds, I berated myself for crying, making noise, and being negative (because in Molly Jo's birth I was very quiet, hardly made a peep, and was so positive), and then quickly let those things go and grasped the Lord's grace and accepted that it was okay to cry, scream, and say whatever came to my lips.

I kept repeating that I couldn't do it, and at the same time those words rolled out my mouth I knew I was doing it, and Nanci reminded me that I was doing it and kept telling me I was doing a good job.  Inside, I knew that those feelings were normal, and the fact that I felt that way was evidence that it was almost over. Crazy as it sounds, I was encouraged by the "I can't" feelings because I knew that meant I was so close to holding my baby.

Nanci helped support as I pushed the baby out. I was looking forward to the relief that comes once the head is out, but it didn't come. It was really the first time I had experienced that. There had always been relief after the head was birthed, but it was not so.  Usually, the rest of the body just feels like a jiggly plop that comes out in a single, easy push (at least, for me) but, again, that was not the case.  Every bit of pushing her out was labor on my part.  This time I actually had to push along with my body (in some of my births, my body has done all the work, and I could not have "not pushed" if I wanted to!).  This time I felt every little movement as she came down.  This time it took real work and effort for me to labor and birth her into this world.  It's really amazing how each birth can differ so drastically!

But then she was there, in my arms, her little cord wrapped a bit around her tiny little foot. And, just as Nanci had promised me days before, the long 42 weeks of waiting no longer mattered. We looked at the time- 12:27am.  We had entered the wee hours of Tuesday!

My vocabulary suddenly became limited to three words for the next five minutes.

Thank you Jesus.
Thank you Jesus.
Thank you Jesus.....

I mean, how could I utter anything else but praise?

Once the cord stopped pulsing Nanci and Brandon clamped and cut it.  Brandon snuggled with Shiloh, who was already rooting and sucking on her hands, eager for a chance to nurse!  The placenta was birthed in record time (for me, at least).  I got to see Shiloh's sack, which was really silky.  Shiloh was so pink and clean on the front, but her hair and back were covered in thick, creamy white vernix.  So weird!  And, yes, HAIR! I had given birth to a baby with hair! HAIR, y'all!

Dark waves of hair, just as I had prayed for.  Who knows if it will stick around (Merika had some hair, but it all fell out after a month or two) but I am grateful that, for now, I get to enjoy it!

Brandon went to wake Merika up so she could see Shiloh.  We knew it would be very meaningful and precious to her to see Shiloh right away.  She was already awake, sitting sleepily on the edge of her bed.

She was so thrilled, so overjoyed to hold her new sibling.  And, as the oldest of our children, I love that we can give her the pleasure of being the first of her siblings to examine and hold and love on the new baby. It's a special blessing reserved for her.

Merikalyn helped Nanci measure and weigh Shiloh.  She has helped Nanci through two of my pregnancies with measuring my belly, helping find the heartbeat, and feeling for the baby's position, so I know it was exciting to help with that as well. She is my mini-midwife in training!

Shiloh weighed 6 pounds and 15 ounces and was 21 inches long!  Nanci had predicted she would be a tiny baby and needed all 42 weeks to grow! Sure enough, she did!

Nanci and Brandon inspected the placenta, which I was told was definitely close to its limit.  It had turned white and yellow in some spots, and was a bit grainy in some areas.  I am told that parts of it were beginning to lose function but it had been so capable of caring for Shiloh during those 42 weeks.  I am so amazed that my body grows an organ to nourish and nurture a baby!  God really thought of everything, didn't He?

All in all, my labor was less than 3 hours long. Three. Hours. Y'all.  I am amazed. In my first two births, I spent three hours pushing! (Those were exhausting hospital births.)

Shiloh Mae is a pro at nursing. I've never had a baby that "got it" so quickly. She nurses for long periods of time and then naps for long periods of time. She's so little bitty- the second smallest of all our babies (Merikalyn was the smallest).  She definitely looks different from most of our children.  The last three (Keagan, Evangeline, and Molly Jo) looked so similar (and BALD!), that I am often shocked by how different Shiloh Mae looks.  She does resemble Merika's newborn baby-ness as far as I can remember (my memory of those days is so fuzzy), and seems to take after my side of the family more.  Not that it matters anyway, but you know how all that is so interesting to consider.  It never ceases to amaze me how each child is so different and unique even with the same parents' genes!

Shiloh Mae Turner McGee

{How we chose her name}

As I mentioned earlier, the Lord gave me her name when I was reading Scripture.  Shiloh is a living river/spring, also considered to be the fountain of living water, a reference to Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Lord has definitely been teaching me a lot about the Holy Spirit and the life of Christ within me this season, so it's so fitting that it would be our baby's name as well.

Brandon has long wanted a little girl with the name "Mae", and it fit so well with Shiloh, giving it a sweet southern spin.

Turner is my maiden name, and very fitting since she flipped and flopped so much in the womb that we had to repeatedly turn her to get her head down again. (I can't tell you how many times I had to do weird positions, my rear up in the air, to get her in the correct placement during those last weeks of pregnancy!)

Molly Jo and Shiloh Mae are the only children who have four names in our family.